Journalism of Courage

Joint Account: 36 Governors take case to President Buhari against NFIU

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), has risen in unison against the move by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), to check the management of financial allocations to the 774 Local Government Councils in the country.

The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), which was excised from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has set June 1, 2019, as the takeoff date of the new order, making it compulsory for all LGA allocations to go straight to their respective bank accounts.

The decision is contained in a guideline released by the NFIU after a lengthy meeting with officials of commercial banks in Abuja.

But, the 36 governors that are been accused of refusing the Local Government Council to function, expressed dismay and angst at what they described as “this brazen attempt by the NFIU to ridicule our collective integrity and show total disregard” for the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.

Accordingly, the governors have approached President Muhammadu Buhari to call the NFIU to order and stop it from dabbling into a matter they insist is beyond its mandate.

In a letter signed by the Chairman of the NGF and out-going Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, the governors drew the attention of the President to section (6) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which confers on the States and National Assemblies, the powers to make provisions for statutory allocation of Public revenue to the Local Councils in the Federation and within the states respectively.

The NGF’s letter dated May 15, 2019. titled; Re: NFIU Enforcement and Guidelines to Reduce Crime Vulnerabilities Created by Cash Withdrawal from Local Government Funds Throughout Nigeria Effective June 1st, 2019, stated that Section 162 (6) of the Constitution, expressly provides for the creation of the States Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) into which shall be paid all allocations to the LGAs of the State from the Federation Account and from the government of the state.

The NGF stressed that nothing in the NFIU Act 2018 gives the body the powers that it seeks to exercise in the guidelines it released and is therefore acting in excess of its powers.

Yari noted that by so doing, the NFIU is exhibiting complete disregard of the constitution of Nigeria, just as it accused the NFIU of “stoking mischief and also deliberately seeking to cause disaffection, chaos and overheat the polity.”

According to the NGF; “Local Government Councils are a creation of the constitution and are not financial institutions. They are not Reporting entities and are therefore not under the NFIU in the manner contemplated by the NFIU so-called guidelines.

“In principle the NFIU should concentrate on its core mandate of Anti-money laundering (AML), activities and Combatting Financing Terrorism (CTF), as prescribed in the Act establishing it and should desist from encroaching on or even breaching constitutional provisions.”

The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) is the Nigerian arm of the global financial intelligence Units (FIUs), which was once domiciled within the EFCC but now for the purpose of institutional location, is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The NGF noted that giving the above, it means the NFIU is only mandated to trace or track laundered money that finds its way into terrorism financing and report such to the nation’s security agencies.

“The NFIU should seek to comply with those standards on combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism and its proliferation as stipulated and not dabble into matters that are both constitutional and beyond NFIU purview,” Yari stressed.

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